Street children demand legal documents as they turn adult

The street-children-turned-adults say their miseries have compounded in lack of legal status as a Nepali citizen.

NL Today

  • Read Time 2 min.

Kathmandu: They all have come from a similar background. Jitu, Asha and Rajesh, among a dozen other youths, recently discussed ways to obtain legal documents like birth certificates and citizenship certificates which are necessary in every step of life. Speaking at an informal interaction held in an organization called Sath Sath last week, the street-children-turned-adults, who hardly have any surname, stated that their miseries have compounded in lack of legal status as a Nepali citizen.

“Our childhood is similar. There was nobody to care for us. We have faced enough troubles in life and now we are struggling to be counted as a citizen of our own country,” said Asha, who seems to be 20. “We don’t have details of our birthplace, parents’ citizenship and so on, we want the government to help us solve our problem,” she added.

According to Kabita Rajya Shah, Resource Executive of Sath Sath, it is preparing to take the cases of around a dozen of children who grew up in the streets to the court. Since they all have lost connection with their family members, they cannot bring any kind of legal papers from their respective birth place, she said.

“We have decided to knock on the door of the court, hopefully we can obtain a birth certificate and then citizenship for those children,” she further said.

According to Rasana Dhakal, an activist working for child and women rights for a long time, the children need counseling and support. Instead, they are being neglected and additional problems include a lack of legal documents.

“As they grew up in the streets and faced abuse, most of these children need proper counseling. Mental health counts. But instead of getting such support, their birth certificate and citizenship certificate issues have further hit their sanity,” she remarked.

Meanwhile, Rajesh, who works as  a security guard in a private school, stated that children in streets are also prone to child marriage. As there’s nobody to guide them, the girls and boys get into relationships and most often than not, have babies.

“Take my own case. I met my wife in the streets in Kathmandu as I was a street child too. We got closer and today we’ve two kids,” he said. “But neither any of us nor our children have a birth certificate,” he added.

Meanwhile, Devi Prasad Dotel, an officer at National Children Rights Committee (NCRC) stated that the committee could have helped if they were below 18 years. After a child crosses the age, the committee cannot intervene directly, he said.

“The policies state that none would be left homeless in the country. Hence, there should not have been such a legal problem. But yes, in practicality, the government mechanisms might not have worked that aptly,” he said. “We are aware of the cases like that of Rajesh and others, but we don’t have a handy solution to the problem,” he added.

In the last 16 years, the National Center for Children at Risk, (Balbalika Khoj Talash Kendra) which has its branches across the country except for Mustang district, has handed over around 4500 children back to their families. Nearly 1500 children were sent to shelter homes, according to Dotel.